Monday, March 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Papas Rellenas

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra 
A quick read through Kathlyn’s March challenge post brought to mind several other "filled" foods; Salvadorean pupusas, Polish pierogi, Indian samosas, Latin empanadas, and the list goes on. One notable difference stood out, Papas Rellenas traditionally have a filling encased in potatoes, not in a flour or masa dough. Potatoes! reminiscent of a British cottage pie or shepherd’s pie, perhaps? Dough, bread or potatoes wrapped around a savory filling, and baked or fried - that could describe comfort food in many cultures.

I procrastinated this month, leaving the challenge until the last possible moment. What was I thinking? Sigh, I could relate to the drooping daffodils outside the kitchen window, me feeling a wee bit stressed while the flowers struggled against rain and wind.

The March Daring Cooks' Challenge was to make one or both of the posted recipes, an option I truly appreciated this month. Thank you, Kathlyn! It was no surprise that once I busied myself in the kitchen - chopping vegies, riceing potatoes, sauteing and stirring filling, forming and frying the Papas - any lingering stress disappeared from my day.The following decisions helped me out too.
   1. Ignore the ceviche portion of the challenge. Been there, done that many times, so provide a link to my previous halibut ceviche post. (here)

   2. Use Kathlyn's suggested method, but substitute the filling ingredients from my lamb merguez sausage recipe.(here) I had everything in stock so that eliminated a trip to the store.

   3. Add additional vegetables to the Salsa Criolla, just in case we decided mid-dinner to switch the entree to lamb burgers or tacos instead. 

The Good News:
   The many varied parts of the recipe were completed in one afternoon, albeit a long one.
   RL enjoyed the Papas Rellenas, and we already know he loves ceviche. ("Why bother cooking halibut any other way when this is so good?!")

The Rest of the Story:
   Procrastinating right up to the last day meant it did take the entire afternoon to prep, cook, dine and photograph... and that still left some writing to do. (So here I sit, after midnight, editing like crazy.)
   The kitchen is a mess, the stove glistens with grease droplets, the house reeks of oil, and yes, I really did enjoy The Papas Rellenas Experience.

Did We Enjoy the Dish?
   I liked it, but didn't love it: too little filling in too much potato. Perhaps forming a small meatball first, then coating it in a thin layer of potato, would be a workable alternative.  
   RL was more enthusiastic: he loved the crunch of the crust, and had fun evaluating the taste effect of different sauces and condiments. Salsa Criolla was his favorite, though HP Sauce ranked right up there.

Would I Prepare it Again?
Probably not, but I won't hesitate to share a small plate of Papas at any local Latin restaurant.

Papas Rellenas (de carne)
Made 6 small papas and 4 larger ones (with 1.5 cups of potato left over) 

For the dough:
2¼ lb russet potatoes

1 large egg
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a medium pot cover the potatoes with cold water: boil until cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Peel the cooled potatoes; force them through a potato ricer, or smoosh them with a potato masher.
  3. Add egg, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly. Be certain these additions are well combined and evenly distributed.
While waiting for the potatoes to cool down, before finishing the dough, you can 

Make the filling:
I used a 1/4 recipe of my Lamb Merguez ingredients, adapted to Kathlyn's suggested method.
  1. Place all ingredients, except onion, red pepper and garlic, in a medium-sized bowl.  
  2. Lightly coat a small skillet with oil, or spray with a cooking spray: saute the chopped onion, red pepper and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes, until soft but not browned. Remove from the skillet and add to the mixture in the bowl and mix well - until it is really, really well-integrated.
  3. Using the same skillet, saute the meat mixture until cooked through, but not hard and crispy. Remove from the heat and place in a strainer to drain off the grease and juices. Set aside and let cool.
While the filling is cooling, you can assemble the ingredients... 
For the final preparation:

1 large egg, beaten

1 cup AP flour
Dash cayenne pepper

Dash salt

1 cup dry or fresh unseasoned bread crumbs or regular panko
Oil for frying (2” deep in a heavy pan, like a medium-sized dutch oven)

Forming and frying the papas:

  1. Use three small bowls for the breading. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, a beaten egg with a tiny bit of water. Put panko or bread crumbs in the third
  2. Flour your hands and scoop up a portion of dough to make a round pancake with your hands. Make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.
  3. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat with all dough (you should have about 6 large papas).
  4. Heat 1 ½ to 2 inches of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F.
  5. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.
  6. Fry the papas (in batches if necessary) about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to brown both sides.
  7. Drain on paper towel and store in a 200ºF oven if frying in batches.
Serve immediately with salsa criolla and/or other sauces of your choice.

Salsa Criolla:
2 medium red onions, cut in half and very thinly sliced (as half-circles)
1/2 chili pepper 

1 tablespoon vinegar

Juice from 2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine.
Note: I blanched chunks cut from 2 medium-sized carrots and 2 celery stalks and added them to the mix. That required additional liquid to cover: a 60/40 mix of water and vinegar, juice from additional limes, 1 heaping tablespoon of sugar, and a generous splash of juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos. 


  1. You left ravioli off your list. They are really good fried.

  2. You should bake the potato balls next time. It worked for other participants.


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